Archive for the ‘Sociocultural conventions’ Category

Paddington Bear

January 13, 2015

A charming and perceptive piece from Sunday’s NYT Book Review : “Please Look After This Bear” by Pico Iyer, about the Paddington Bear books, which Iyer sees as (among other things) social commentary. The beginning:

When Paddington Bear landed in London in 1958, it was still quite a provincial place. Safe, settled, a little gray — no sign of the Beatles or the swinging ’60s yet — it upheld the ceremonial proprieties immortalized in [the film] “Brief Encounter” and [the book] “84, Charing Cross Road.” Men wore ties to dinner, women skirts; the post-nuclear nightmares and beatnik explosions of America were barely visible on occasional television screens. Yes, the likes of the Trinidad-born novelist Samuel Selvon were beginning to give voice to other realities in works like “The Lonely Londoners,” but if a British family’s name was Brown, you could be fairly sure its skin was not.


The news for cats

August 10, 2014

From Jeanne Dusseault, a link to the eccentric webcomic Breaking Cat News by Georgia Dunn. The latest installment (headline: “The man is taking a shower”), of August 6th:


The conceit: The strip shows bulletins from Cat News, a program by and for cats — in particular, the three cats of Dunn’s household (Lupin, Puck, and Elvis). The cats view everything from their point of view, and the views of the humans in the household (known to the cats only as The Woman and The Man) are either irrelevant or inscrutable. Many cross-species failures of communication result, as in the fourth panel above, where Puck (the black cat) can’t understand why The Man stands in a closet to get clean when he has a perefectly good tongue.


Title or slogan?

June 20, 2014

The Bizarro of 3/20/14, which I seem to have missed when it came up in March, but caught yesterday reproduced in the July issue of Funny Times:


An ambiguity — Miss France as a (NP) title in a beauty pageant vs. Miss France as a VP remnant of a declarative S, conveying ‘I miss France’.  This gross difference in syntax and semantics corresponds to a pragmatic difference, whether the expression is viewed as printed on a sash (as in beauty pageants) or as the equivalent of a t-shirt slogan — very different sociocultural contexts.

Briefly noted: note from a subculture

June 6, 2014

A business card (two-sided, mounted here on an ornamental card) from an establishment in British Columbia, picked up by a friend visiting there: a private  place for men to enjoy sexual connection. These range from the gay baths, for relatively short-term liaisons, to those that label themselves as hotels or resorts (some in urban locations, some rural), offering everything from tricking to vacations for couples. Hung Homo Homestay (despite the slangy alliterative name) is definitely at the high end.

I’ll eventually post some about male body types and tastes about them. Here I merely note that these men have exceptionally, indeed abnormally, developed musculature — not to everyone’s taste (think of it as ornamental rather than necessarily arousing), and certainly not found routinely at homo hook-up havens.

Coping with the new

June 2, 2014

In today’s One Big Happy, Ruthie and Joe are back on the track of trying to make sense of things they haven’t heard before:


Lots of knowledge needed here — about the words of English and about sociocultural conventions:


At the X line with remarkably named pornstars

July 6, 2013

(Warning: This posting has an image of man-man sex that is right at the X line — that’s one of the topics of the posting, in fact — and some frank description of gay sex, so it might not be to everyone’s taste.)

In my e-mail yesterday, a stirring ad from Lucas Entertainment (Michael Lucas’s porn flick company, not George Lucas’s film company) for its film Lovers in Paradise, with a shot of Wagner Vittoria penetrating Tiziano Fuentes — an image that I’ll show some distance below the fold; it’s technically not X-rated (there’s no penis, testicles, or anus visible in it), though no one could mistake what’s going on there. As in my posting “X or not?” of 5/19/13, I’ll muse some on where the X line gets drawn.

First, though, a description of the scene and some information about three remarkably named pornstars (these two and Vittoria’s pornstar boyfriend Diego Lauzen).


X or not?

May 19, 2013

A few days ago, an intense Benno Thoma postcard from Max Vasilatos (in an envelope), with the note: “This could probably go in the regular mail, but I’m taking no chances.” The issue is whether the image counts as X-rated or not; Max and I fairly often puzzle over the categorization of images, sometimes for the purpose of mailing and sometimes for the purpose of posting in certain places on the net (like this blog). The line isn’t clear.

First, the case at hand. Then, some general discussion.


Two mother songs

May 19, 2013

From a posting that started with the shapenote song Family Circle (#333 in the Sacred Harp, Denson Revision):

At shapenote singing on Sunday (which was Mothers Day), we sang a fair number of songs with mother in their texts. Some are decidedly odd, but one was an old friend, Family Circle (the music is included in my posting on “Come Thou Fount”; “And rejoice, O my mother” is in the chorus).

On to two of the odd songs: the sentimental The Dying Boy (#398) and the touching The Bride’s Farewell (#359b) — two songs that are very rarely sung.


Annals of insult crimes

May 18, 2013

In my last foray into insult crimes, the legally actional insults were directed againt religion (the Russian Orthodox Church, Islam). Of course, in many countries, speech that’s perceived as denigrating a ruler is actionable. Which brings me to this NYT news flash on the 16th:

A Bahraini court jailed six people for a year on Wednesday for insulting King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in messages on Twitter, the official news agency said.

The six were accused of posting remarks “undermining the values and traditions of Bahrain’s society towards the king on Twitter,” the head of the public prosecutor’s office, Nayef Youssef, said in a statement reported by the Bahrain News Agency. He said freedom of opinion and expression were guaranteed by the Constitution, law and international conventions, but should not be used in a way that contradicted the norms of society. The news agency gave no further information about the six.

Of course, the agency gave no information about what they said on Twitter, because that would be to disseminate the insult.

What struck me especially was the claim that Bahrain guaranteed freedom of opinion and expression — but only insofar as people conform to the norms of society. There is a genuine tug here between two different core values (a great many jurisdictions regulate obscenity in certain contexts, for example), but an appeal to “the norms of society” can easily be stretched to ban any unpopular or embarrassing expression of ideas. So just citing norms in a general way won’t do.


Vocabulary surprises

May 17, 2013

For some purposes, you can function fairly well with material in another language, so long as the topic stays within domains that are familiar to you — like linguistics, say. But when you wander into other domains, especially those that are closely tied to sociocultural conventions, things get messy, even if you stick to nouns; there’s just so much to know about cultural artifacts and customs, for example, and a huge vocabulary to acquire in these areas, in the names of animals and plants, etc.

I can deal pretty well with technical material in French, for example, but I’m easily stumped when it comes to artifacts, animals, plants, and the like. By way of illustration: my daughter gave me a big box of postcards on The Art of Instruction, with images of school materials from the 1950s, from mostly French but also some German sources. The German items have no text, but the French material (from Éditions Rossignol — the name is great; rossignol means ‘nightingale’) is heavy with text. For animals and plants, much of the vocabulary is technical teminology from zoology, anatomy, or botany, and that’s fascinating, but I can’t be expected to know these expressions. However, there are also the common names for animals and plants, and they contain many surprises.

That brings me to the tadpole.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 855 other followers